Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek was questioned by the police on Thursday in connection with a case involving three former Civic Democratic MPs, who were allegedly offered seats on the boards of state-owned companies in exchange for giving up their mandates and allowing the government’s tax reforms to pass. Mr. Kalousek, who was questioned as a witness, told the police that he did not offer former MP Petr Tluchoř the post at the energy company ČEZ in exchange for political favors. The State Attorney has pressed charges of corruption against Mr. Tluchoř, as well as former MPs Marek Šnajdr, Ivan Fuksa and the prime minister’s chief of staff Jana Nagyová.
In a secret ballot on Thursday morning, Tomáš Hudeček from the TOP 09 party was elected as the new mayor of Prague, the first councilman not from the Civic Democratic party to lead the Prague City Hall in 22 years. The Social Democrats promised to support the TOP 09 nominee and their minority city council government earlier in the week, but did not sign a coalition agreement with the center-right party preferring to remain in the opposition. The 34-year old Hudeček has been acting mayor since his party withdrew from its coalition with the Civic Democrats, ousting mayor Bohuslav Svoboda in mid-May.
President Miloš Zeman said that he will discuss his views on the Civic
Democrats’ nomination of Miroslava Němcová for the post of prime
minister first with leaders of the parliamentary parties and only after
will reveal his decision to the press. The Civic Democratic leadership put
forward the lower house speaker as their nominee on Wednesday, after Petr
Nečas resigned as prime minister in response to a scandal involving his
closest aides. President Zeman plans to meet with party chairmen in the
next few days to discuss possible solutions to the current government
crisis. It is in his competence to name a candidate from
among the Civic Democrats to try and renew the centre-right coalition or
could decide on a candidate of his own choosing to lead a caretaker
government. The president has also said that the possibility of early
elections is not off the table.
The Social Democrats have criticized the choice of Mrs. Němcová, but the Civic Democrats’ coalition partners TOP 09 and LIDEM parties mostly approved of it.
Three out of the four judges nominated by the president to the Constitutional Court were approved by the Senate on Thursday. Only Miloslav Výborný, who was nominated for a renewed term did not receive enough votes. Otherwise, the Senate confirmed a renewed term for Constitutional Court Chairman Pavel Rychetský, as well as the nominations of Kateřina Šimáčková of the Supreme Administrative Court and Ludvík David of the Supreme Court for Constitutional Court judges.
The police have uncovered a large-scale internet child pornography distribution network, with 32 people under investigation, and possibly eight others being charged in the future. Twenty-seven people were arrested during 46 house searches. Two police officers and one civilian working for the police are suspected of participating in the illegal activity. One of them has been detained. Child pornography was distributed through emails and online forums.
According to the Education Ministry, 16.4% of the almost 88,000 students who took the unified state high school leaving exam for the first time this year failed the test. This is the lowest percentage of failures since the test began to be administered three years ago. In comparison to the previous two years, overall students did worse on the mathematics part of the exam, but improved in the Czech and foreign language parts. This year there was also only one level of difficulty instead of two, which were available in the previous two years. Around 3,000 students filed complaints over the results of the exams. So far 139 complaints were recognized as valid. Last year, around 8,000 asked for their results to be reevaluated.
A painting by the Czech avant-garde artists František Kupka sold for 1.65 million pounds or 49.5 million crowns at a Sotheby’s auction in London. The price for Étude sur Fond Rouge was originally estimated to be only 1 million pounds. The painting was sold as part of an evening auction of impressionist and modernist art, which included works by Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Salvador Dali.
The Art & Design Institute, a new private art school, has received approval from the Education Ministry’s accreditation commission, its chairwoman Vladimíra Dvořáková announced Wednesday. The school, based in Prague, will open its doors in 2014 and is to be led by the former head of the National Gallery Milan Knížák. The school received accreditation for four years. The project still has to be officially approved by the ministry. It is expected that around 200 students will be accepted, with a maximum of 15 taking classes in individual “studios”. A semester is to cost 35 thousand crowns. Students will be able to begin applying this autumn.
Jaromír Jágr got two assists in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday evening that was again decided in overtime. The Bruins, with Jágr and fellow Czech player David Krejčí, ultimately missed the opportunity to take a stranglehold of the series: Chicago’s Seabrook scored the winner at 9:51 in overtime, tying the best-of-seven series at two apiece heading back to Chicago. The final score was 6:5. Another Czech player, Michal Rozsíval, had two assists on the night for the Blackhawks.
At least 70 meteorological stations around the Czech Republic have measured record high temperatures in the last four days. The highest measurement as of Thursday was in Prague’s Karlov station, where it was 36.5 degrees Celsius during the day, which beat the 2002 record by two whole degrees. The oldest meteorological station in Prague’s Clementinum, which has been recording data since 1775, will announce the highest measurement for the day in the evening, and it is expected to break even the temperature in Karlov. Thursday, though, is expected to be the last day of extreme heat in the near future. Starting Friday temperatures are expected to decrease and rain will most likely set in for the next week.